Mysticism : The heartbeat of Islam
What is faith according to Islam? Faith is belief in : One God : A Divine Presence, In the existence of spiritual beings known as angels In the revelations of God, the Psalms revealed to David, the Torah sent down to Moses, the New Testament brought to Jesus and the Final Testament, The living Qur'an brought to Muhammad all the prophets that were sent as mercy to mankind : The Judgement Day and Resurrection The Divine Decree destiny
Spiritual Freedom *Manifestation*
In the beginning, when there was no earth nor heaven, there was no other phase of existence than the eternal consciousness, which in other words may be called a silent, inactive state of life or unawakened intelligence that man has idealized as God, the only Being.
In the first stage of manifestation the unconscious state of existence turns into 'Ilm,' consciousness. Every soul is a ray of the consciousness. The nature of the consciousness is that it is radiant, it sends out rays. These pass through all the planes until they reach the ideal manifestation in man.
In the Vedanta the soul is called by three names which denote its three aspects, Atma, Mahatma, Paramatma. Atma is the soul conscious of the life on the surface, Mahatma is the soul conscious as well of the life within, Paramatma is the consciousness that is the soul of souls, conscious of the Absolute within and without, the God of the knower, the Lord of the seer.
In the primal stage of manifestation the consciousness has no knowledge of anything save of being, not knowing in what or as what it lives. The next aspect of the consciousness is the opposite pole of its experience, where it knows all that it sees and perceives through the vehicles of the lower world but is limited to this. When it rises above this experience and experiences the higher world as far as the highest aspect of its being, as said above, it becomes Mahatma, the Holy Ghost that unites Paramatma, the Father, with Atma, the Son, as explained in the terms of Christianity.
This whole manifestation is constituted of two aspects of the consciousness, power and intelligence, in poetical terms love and light. All power lies in the unintelligent aspect of the consciousness, and the wisdom of the Creator that we see in the creation is the phenomenon of the intelligent aspect of the consciousness.
All this creation is not created of anything that is outside of the consciousness. It is the consciousness itself which has involved a part of itself in its creation while a part remains as Creator, as water frozen turns into ice and yet water abides within and the ice lasts only for the time that it is frozen; when light reaches the ice it turns into water, its original element. So it is with the consciousness; all things have been created out of it, and when their time of existence is finished all return and merge into it.
The consciousness has taken four distinct steps in manifestation, which in Sufi terms are called 'Ilm, 'Ishq, Wujud, Shuhud. 'Ilm is the stage in which the consciousness acts as intelligence. 'Ishq is the stage when the activity of the rays of the consciousness has increased and this has caused confusion among the rays and made power out of the intelligence, which is will in simple terms and in poetical terms love. The third step of the consciousness, Wujud, is the creation of vehicles, such as mind and body, through which it experiences the life on the surface. And its fourth step is its conscious experience of life from the depth to its utmost height, which is called Shuhud, and this fulfills the purpose of all manifestation.
The divisions of one into many are caused by light and shade, and if we looked keenly into life, both within and without, we should realize clearly that it is one life, one light, which appears divided and made into many by different shades. Every luminous object under the shadow of a less luminous object turns darker in part, and this in terms of art is called shade. It is this secret which is hidden under the variety of things and beings.
Time and space are the cause of all creation and the source of all its variety. It is time that changes things and beings from the raw state to the ripe condition, from youth to age, from birth to death. Time brings rise and fall, and space gives success and failure. A person may meet with failure in one place and in another place with success, in one country he may rise and in another country he may fall. If one were to look closely into life one would see that all creation is changed under the influence of time and space whereas no change ever takes place in space or in time. It is in these that the mystery of the whole world abides.
The activity of the consciousness has two aspects, motion and stillness, which causes two distinct things, the expressive power and the faculty of response. From the highest to the lowest plane of existence and in the life of all things and beings we see these two forces working unceasingly, each being for the other, and in the experience of expression and response lies the joy of both; in other words, the satisfaction of the consciousness. The sun expresses, the moon responds; the voice expresses, the ear responds. All the dual aspects in life, such as male and female, show these two aspects. There is not a single thought, speech, action, or event that takes place without the activity of these two; all happiness and success are in their harmony and every fall and failure are in the lack of it. The birth of every thing and being is caused by the meeting of their glance, and death and destruction are the result of their conflict, when either merges into the other and both lose their power.
There are two different ways in which creation takes place from the highest to the lowest plane: intention and accident. The former shows the wisdom of the Creator, who makes all things suited to their purpose; and accident is that which reveals a loss of purpose in things and beings. All the opposites, such as good and evil, sin and virtue, right and wrong, beauty and ugliness, are accounted for by the above two tendencies of the Creator that work throughout creation.
The whole creation acts under the law of attraction and repulsion. Attraction is the affinity which collects and groups atoms and vibrations and all things and beings;it is power, and repulsion is the lack of it. It is these two that uphold the universe; if one of them were to cease to exist the whole universe would crumble to pieces.
The life of the universe in all its workings is entirely dependent upon the law of tone and rhythm. The pure consciousness has so to speak gradually limited itself more and more by entering into the external vehicles, such as the mind and the body, in order to be conscious of something, for the joy of everything is experienced when it is tried.
The first state of manifestation of the consciousness is of a collective nature, in other words a universal spirit, not individual. There is a saying of a dervish, 'God slept in the mineral kingdom, dreamed in the vegetable kingdom, awakened in the animal kingdom, and realized Himself in the human race.' Therefore the ultimate aim of the eternal Consciousness in undertaking a journey to the plane of mortality is to realize its eternal being.
Each of the said kingdoms has sprung from the preceding one, and each preceding kingdom has developed into the succeeding kingdom. In the mineral kingdom one sees by a careful study how the rock has developed into metal, and from metal into softer earthy substance, until it develops into the plant. And one sees how the development of the plant creates germs and worms, which we call lives, and how from their germ and worm state of being they develop into insects, birds, and beasts. This all shows that nature is working continually to rise to a greater consciousness of life, and finds its satisfaction at last when it has accomplished its journey by rising to its natural and normal state of being, which it accomplishes in man.
When a ray starts out from the universal Spirit, projecting towards manifestation, it is called Dipak, meaning light, which in its lower manifestation turns into Cupid, the reverse of the word 'dipak' in spelling. In Arabic it is called Nur, light, from which words Nar, man, and Ndri, women, are derived.
It is very difficult to differentiate rays from light and light from rays. It depends on our understanding. In the rays light is more separate, more distinct, while light itself is more collected, more together. But at the same time we should remember that the truth cannot be put into words; all we can do is to make an effort to render the mystery of life intelligible to our minds. The distinction between light and sun and rays is most useful, but it must be understood by the light of intuition; then it will become clear. Take for instance the example of the rain; why must the raindrops also rear poisonous plants and weeds, why should they not fail only upon corn, fruits, and flowers? They fail in all places; and so do the rays coming from the sun. The divine light fails everywhere without distinction just as the rain does.
When science discovered the secret of electricity, on that day science was also discovering the secret of the soul. For the secret of the soul is not far removed from the secret of electricity. The current of electricity is not necessarily the same as electricity. Electricity is the power which is hidden in the current. It is the same with the soul; the soul attracts atoms by some secret current; and that current is the soul itself. It is like one globe over another. There is something within the body, but at the same time it is all collected and gathered in that current; and that current is the ray; it is the divine current.
In the angelic sphere the soul attracts angelic atoms; in the jinn sphere it attracts jinn atoms, and on the earth physical atoms. Thus mankind is clothed in the garb of an angel, of a jinn, and of a human being; but when he only sees himself in the garb of a human being without seeing the other garbs, he believes he is nothing but a human being.
The souls coming out get impressions from souls going back because they absorb, conceive, learn, and receive all that is given to them by the souls leaving the earth. But what really happens is reflection; souls coming from heaven become impressed. It is just like an impression upon a photographic plate; and when they come on earth the photographic plate is developed and finished.
As a rule the reflection of two souls meeting takes place like this; but there is a difference in the qualities of souls. There is one upon which an impression is made instantly, and another soul upon which it takes longer. That is due to the intensity of power and radiation that the soul brings along within itself.
Souls on their way to the earth plane know, and at the same time do not know exactly, that they are on the way to experience life here. There is an impulse to go forward and to experience that which they may be able to experience. That tendency gives the soul strength to advance, and those which are able to advance far enough manifest as human beings.
The soul brings on earth an accommodation for its mind, already prepared in a very negative state, from the world of the jinns that is the plane it gets its accommodation from. It gets a body after coming on earth, but the accommodation is filled later on, after the soul's awakening on the earth plane; it is here that the soul collects everything. For instance there may be one child which listens attentively to music, while another runs away from it; this means that the latter has not got the mold in which music is engraved. It will learn to appreciate music later i£ it will listen to it, but with the first child the mold was already made, and the music it hears will readily fit into that mold.
The soul gathering impressions first builds up the astral being, then attracts both sexes towards each other, manifesting to them first in ether, feeling; then in air, thought; then in fire, desire; manifesting after this into water and earth elements, gathering and grouping the substance from both, choosing a clay suitable for its formation. Generally a soul chooses also its birthplace and family. The soul inherits the father's qualities and the mother's form, in other cases the reverse; attracting the heredity on the father's and the mother's side until it steps on earth as an infant.
A mother seeing the growth of her child, says that her child has gained so many pounds. In fact it has lost as much, for the soul of the child has produced from its immortal nature mortal unconsciousness in order to experience life, and the more the earthly substance is built up, the more the heavenly being is lost, the more feeble it has become and the more the almighty power is lessened.
Sex is determined in every plane where the soul forms its vehicle; first on the plane of consciousness where it emerges as dynamic force or intelligence, then on the plane of the abstract as sound or light, which gives power to man and wisdom to woman. In man this manifests as influence and in woman as beauty. In the spiritual plane it manifests as expression and response, which gives man the fatherly and woman the motherly quality.
When and why was the difference of sex produced in manifestation? One cannot say that the soul of woman or the soul of man was made first, as the soul is neither male nor female. When the soul reaches the point where the distinction of sex arises, it is first male; then if it wishes to become finer, it becomes female. We can see in the kernel of the almond and of other nuts, that where there are two kernels in one shell the female form has been formed from the male.
One sometimes calls men and women who love each other very much two parts of one soul; but this can only be said in the sense that we are all parts of one soul. Between man and woman there can be affinities of the angel plane, of the jinn plane and of the physical plane; many different ties and affinities attract them to each other.
This whole world of illusion could only be produced by duality. In reality there are not two, but one. In order to produce this world, the one Being had to turn Himself into two, and the two had to be different. We have two eyes but one sight, two ears but one hearing, two nostrils but one breath. According to whether the breath flows through the one or the other nostril, it has distinct qualities and faculties; but it is the same breath.
If we hold a mirror in the sunshine, and turn it about, some of the flashes will be stronger, others weaker; some therefore positive, others negative. In the same way the rays of consciousness differ from one another in their energy from the very beginning. Then the ray on its course towards manifestation at once meets the male and the female soul, and the impression of the male and female is made upon it. It may have great creative forces and yet appear as woman because of this impression, or it may be of feminine quality and appear as man because of the impression it has received. When the soul reaches the physical plane, its sex depends upon the parents, upon the planets, and upon the time.
The sex that it takes at the time of formation is not changed later. In the Gulman and Peri sex exists also, though in a lesser degree. We have passed through the plane of Gulman and Peri, but we are not Gulman and Peri; just as we might pass through Germany on our way to Russia, yet we would not be Germans because we had passed through that country. Those who settle in the world of Gulman and Peri, are Gulman and Peri. They have either no inclination or no power to go further.
The reason for all manifestation is that manifestation is God's nature. By this he obtains His satisfaction through the fulfillment of the purpose of the whole creation. But God's satisfaction is not something He is only conscious of; it is something which belongs to Him but is brought to fulfillment. Joy is something which belongs to us, but it is aroused by a certain emotion, a certain action; so this whole creation, which is an action, brings to God the satisfaction for which it was created. It does not bring anything new to God; it only makes Him conscious of what He is.
It is most interesting to understand how the action of God works in manifestation. For instance, sometimes a person begins to walk about the room, or starts drumming with his fingers, or looks up and down without there being any need for it. Why does he do it? Because the absence of action has the effect of paralysing the activity of the mind; and when the absence of action has paralysed the mind the soul begins to feel lonely and begins to wonder whether it is living or not. But when it begins to walk or to stop, then it realizes that it is alive, because then it lives in the outward consciousness of life. If we think about this more it opens a vast field of knowledge.
Naturally not all motion is caused by restlessness, for there are two states: weakness and strength. When a person is weak, once put in motion he will act and go on acting without any control; the other aspect, however, is strength, and that is quite different.
Manifestation takes place in time and space. The sun, the moon, and the planets all have their influence. Morning, noon, evening, night, and every hour of the day each have their special influence too. The children of one father and one mother are very different from each other in height, in breadth, in appearance, in every way, because they are born at different times. If one brother is fifteen years old and the other five, the difference between them will be very great. Twins are very much alike because there is little difference in the time of their birth. Lambs are all much alike because they are born in the same season; and fishes of the same kind are almost exactly alike because thousands of them are produced at the same moment.
This gives rise to the variety, in which the art of the Creator is shown. Since the beginning of the world there have been no two faces alike. Every artist will draw some faces that are similar; how great then must be the art of that Creator who has made all this variety!
All manifestation is made by the two forces of accident and intention, and by the creative and responsive forces. We can see the forces of accident and intention at work in our lives. For instance, if we intended to go for a walk in the park but met a friend who said, 'You must come to my house', and he took us there, we had the intention of going to the park, but accident took us to the home of the friend.
Everything in the world is creative or responsive. When someone speaks he is performing the creative part; those who are listening are performing the responsive part. The sun and the moon, male and female, the fruit and the flower, all represent nature's creative and responsive forces. Is the Creator then not master and able to make everything work as He wishes? The mastery is there, but its working out is in accordance with the impressions which are received from the external world.
When a person has been sitting still for some time he will want to move, to rub his hands, his feet, just to feel he is alive. If someone is very fond of the society of his friends and they are not with him, he will want to go out to see them. It is not really because he wants the friends; it is because if his friends are not talking to him, if he has to miss their activity, he does not feel that he is alive.
A blind man will say, 'I am half dead. This external world is nothing to me.' He is alive, but because he cannot see the activity of the world he feels dead. If one pondered upon what one's life would be without all the organs to experience the external world, one would see that then one could realize 'I am', but nothing else. No doubt if a person is inactive but looks at his hands and feet, he realizes that he is alive; but if he were not aware of this body his feeling would be different.
Those parts of creation that do not have much activity we may call living-dead. The mineral does not feel itself alive because it has very little activity. We consider the insects, birds, and animals to be the most alive because they have the greatest activity, and we sympathize most with them.
The destruction of form during manifestation does not affect the great Breath of God, as the ebb and flow of the sea is not at all affected by the waves, whether they go this way or that way. The manner of manifestation is the same all through, from beginning to end and from God to the smallest atom. For instance as God breathes, so we breathe and so do the animals and birds breathe; and when we see that act of breathing going on in the whole manifestation, in the same manner in which it has begun, then we realize that there is one law, one way in which the whole creation took place and will go on until its end.
We can see how minerals turn into plants, and plants into animals. There are some stones that change their shape every six months or so. They are on the way to becoming plants. And there are plants that are very near the stones, that look very much like stones; their leaves are like stones, their flowers are like stones. There are plants that catch and eat flies.
The plant by its decay produces the germ and the insect. Every fruit that is not used decays and produces many germs and worms. We think that it is wasted, because we think of it as a fruit; but it turns into a higher form of life, into more activity and more consciousness.
From the insects, as their activity increases and as they develop, come the birds. Those birds that are very greedy and eat flesh become heavy and do not stay in the air. Those that do not eat so much fly in the air; but those that eat much flesh remain on the ground and their wings become legs. Then the animals come into being. On some birds one may see that among the feathers on the neck and other places there is some brown hair; this shows that they are becoming animals. The animals evolve until man is formed.
The kangaroo and the monkey are most like man. In some primitive races, which have been human for a relatively short time, one can see the likeness to the animals. Other races have been man for a very long time and are more human.
The wheel of evolution is such that the consciousness gradually evolves through rock, tree, animal, to man. In man it evolves enough to seek its own way back to its eternal state of being. Man is the most active being; he has to do with a great many things. A rock has very little activity, and it lasts long; a tree has a little more activity, and its life is not so long as that of the rock. There are many animals that live much longer than man. Man has the greatest activity, and in him the consciousness reaches its highest point of manifestation. In the human race one also finds that man's face has improved at every period of evolution.
If man and animal are both made of the same substance, why then is man superior to the animal? Man and animal are made from the same element, spirit substance, but man is the culmination of creation; that is, man was made with all the experience of the previous creation. A sculptor, as he practices his art, grows more and more expert. His earlier work is not so perfect as the later. A poet grows more and more skilful in writing verse. His earlier poems are generally less skilful and perfect than the later. When man was manifested the Creator had all the experience of His earlier creation, and all the former creation was so to speak the framework for man, the ideal creation. The Creator is the greatest idealist. Man can have his limited ideal; the ideal of the Unlimited is far greater, and this ideal is man.
Some of the human race come straight from God, others have come from the mineral, vegetable, and animal kingdoms. Primitive man is the result of this evolution. Man in his higher development does not pass through these stages. It is like the work of a sculptor in India who wishes to model a statue. First he goes to the jungle to get the clay; then he kneads it and soaks it and prepares it. When it is prepared, he does not go back to the jungle to fetch fresh clay for every statue. He has it ready; it is always in process of preparation.
The difference between what parts of God are expressed by plants, animals, and man is in their bodies and minds. The soul is a ray; and as a ray they are all one and the same. But the body is adorned, in accordance with the fineness of the soul which inhabits it, with more or less intelligence; thus animals and plants differ from man, but among mankind one will also find differences of the same kind. Some have a vegetable quality, some an animal quality, some a human, some an angelic quality. Among Hindus there is a custom, when a couple contemplates marriage, for their family to take their horoscopes to a Brahmin. He may not see very much in the horoscopes, but he is generally a psychologist and he ponders over the question as to what category each person belongs in--whether it is angelic, human, animal, or still denser. If he finds that there is a vast difference between the categories, he will tell them it would not be right for them to marry.
All the time sparks of consciousness are thrown off by the consciousness. They reach to various points of the stages of evolution, and when man is reached the ideal creation has been attained. It is then that the return journey begins. Man only can return to that light, to that consciousness from which the whole of creation came. Neither the horse, nor the dog, nor the cat will reach that light; it is only man who is the seed of that divine fruit. If you put the rind of an orange in the ground, it will not produce an orange tree. All the lower creation was made for the creation of man, God's ideal creation. In man all creation is contained, and he alone can return to the original source, God, from whence he came.
The perfection of God's manifestation is man. When man reaches perfection, His manifestation is perfect, and without man's perfection, God's manifestation would not be perfect. Perfection is reached when mam becomes truly human.
One might ask if plants and animals, mountains and streams, also have a beginning or an apparent individual existence on the higher planes, as human souls have. All that exists on the earth place has its existence on the higher planes too; but what is individual? Every being and object which is distinctly separate may be called an entity, but what one calls an individual is a conception of our imagination; and the true meaning of that conception will be realized on the day when the ultimate truth throws its light upon life. On that day no one will speak about individuality; one will say 'God' and no more.
There are many beings, but at the same time there is one, the only Being. Therefore objects such as streams and mountains are also living, but they only exist separately, to our outer vision. When our inner vision opens then the separation is shown as a veil; then there is one vision alone, and that is the immanence of God.
The World of the Angels
A materialistic person cannot easily believe that there are such beings as angels. He says, 'How can there exist beings whom we have never seen, heard, nor known?' And as this is a materialistic age, even the religious person doubts whether there are such beings.
In Hindustani angels are called Deva; they are Devata, immortals, while the other beings are called Rakshasa, that is mortals. In reality all are immortals, but we are what we consider ourselves to be.
Where, in nature, there is a beautiful and peaceful feeling, it is said that a Deva is living there. The soul of a Deva is creative of beauty and peace. The part of the Deva in the scheme of life is loving, forgiving, and serving God and humanity. The Deva is the divine soul. We find traces of the same word Deva in the English words 'divinity' and 'divine'. In Persian the angel is called Farishta, one who is sent.
The relation of angels to human beings is that of a little child to a grown-up person; they can help human beings as an infant can help its elders.
Some souls remain angels; they are in the highest glory; and others become jinns or human beings according to the strength with which the mechanism is wound, as is the nature of the clock. The first offshoot of the divine Light is the angel; some but not all experience life on all succeeding planes. It is as if a thousand birds had started from Paris for England, and some went as far as Rouen, where they remained, as they liked the place; and enjoying themselves they forgot about England. Some went to Le Havre and stopped there; some crossed the Channel and arrived in England. The ones who stayed in Rouen did not have far to go when they returned to Paris, but the ones who reached England had farther to go on the return journey.
In the angelic heaven there is purity, but not perfection, as there is only one perfection and that is God; there cannot be perfection where there is duality. Imperfection is not learned; it is a state of being, it is limitation. Limitation is the condition of life; however great, virtuous, pure, and strong a person may be, still there is imperfection going towards perfection. The entire interest lies in going forward; if we were born perfect there would be no joy in life.
The word angel suggests an, without, and jel, mortality. Angels are souls which, coming out of the consciousness, have reached as far as the world of the angels and remain there. Every angel has a limit to its reach. When it reaches as far as man, then, by the effort of travelling so far and by the activity of man's life, its impulse is exhausted.
Angels do not experience birth and death in the sense we generally understand them; yet there is only one being: God, who is above birth and death; all else is subject to the law of birth and death. The difference between the earth plane and the angelic plane is very great; but there is a time of youth and a time of age in everything, a time when the fruit is unripe and a time when it is ripe; and so it is with the angels, though there is no comparison possible between the life of angels and that of human beings, human life being too limited.
Just as in our life there is a time when we grow taller, broader, stronger, and everything in us increases, and then, when the limit is reached, we do not grow any more and become weaker every day, so it is with the angels. Only, the life of the angels is much longer than man's life. Theirs is a life of illumination and of praise; they are much nearer to the universal, everlasting sound, the universal, eternal light, much nearer to God, than we are. They have luminous bodies, as solid, as concrete, as the light one sees. The speed of a journey in the heavens is also much quicker and cannot be compared with that of the tower world; it is quickest in the heaven of the angels.
The question arises: do angels have a form, a face? This question is very difficult to answer in words. The reason is that every being and object that has a name has a form or a face; but we are accustomed to give a name to something only when we can distinguish a form; and what our eyes cannot see we do not call a form. One might as well ask whether our imaginations have faces. Our imaginations have the faces we give them and by which we distinguish the one from the other; our feelings too have the faces that we give them, and these faces distinguish one feeling from another feeling. However, the face of an angel is not so concrete as this physical form of ours which we call our self, 'I'; but in order to conceive, to picture, the form or the face of an angel, one needs to become an angel oneself. We are accustomed to consider every form like our own; therefore, when we picture angels, fairies, or ghosts, we picture them like ourselves. The fairies of the Chinese have Chinese features, the fairies of the Russians wear Russian hats. The form we imagine covers the angelic form.
Every atom of manifestation can be said to have a soul, because all manifestation has come from the heavenly source, the divine spheres; so every atom comes from that source and cannot exist without that heavenly radiance. Every atom has radiance, even those of dust; we see this because it has light in it. It is its own light which shows it to us, and that light is its soul. Much that seems to us devoid of intelligence is not so in reality; only the intelligence is buried in the heart; it has projected itself and it has been buried by what it has projected; one day, however, it must emerge.
One can see this in the stars and the planets, in lightning and in volcanic eruptions, when that which is captive desires to burst out. But its greatest chance is in human life, and thus spirituality is the only object in the fulfillment of human evolution.
Not only angels, jinns, and human beings, but even animals, birds, insects, trees, and plants all have a spiritual development in their lives. No creature ever born on earth will be deprived entirely of spiritual bliss, however bad or wrong it may seem. It is a matter of time and progress. Human beings all have a moment, a day, when they touch spiritual bliss; thus all other beings have a moment of promise, and that promise is the fulfillment of their life's purpose. There is nothing in this world without a purpose, and though our places in the scheme of life may seem different from one another, yet in the sum total of things we and the lower creation, together with the angels and the jinns, all have our purpose. That purpose is the realization of truth, and this realization comes to us in the form of bliss.
Is there a likeness between the bodies of an angel, a jinn, and a human being? One cannot give a definite picture of the likeness between those bodies, but they all develop towards the image of man. The physical body is the most distinct and clear; the jinn body is less clear, more phantom-like; and the body of the angel is still less distinct, that is to say less distinct to human eyes. Therefore one cannot compare the things of the earth with those of the other spheres. If there is any similarity it is only because the whole of creation is a development towards the human image.
There is one and there are many; in manifestation many, and in truth one. There is for instance the rise and fall of a nation, the prosperity and decline of a race, and there is also the birth and death of a world;yet at the same time even the lower creation is individual. Every animal, beast, or bird, every tree or plant, has its own soul and spirit; if one says that animals have collective souls, then so have human beings. Our body is one yet every organ is separate; and when we go more deeply into this we discover the wonderful phenomena of life, and we shall come to a place where the entire nature of being will unveil itself; then we shall be able to say there is nothing but God.
Every soul has come through the world of the angels, and every soul has the angelic quality and its connection with the world of the angels. Sometimes a very bad person will show a very good trait. We say that it comes through a certain influence, a certain situation. In part it is so, but mostly it is the influence of the angel. Sometimes a very good person does something very bad. This also is the angelic influence.
Muslims say that when a person performs Wuzu, the washing before prayers, from every drop of water that falls from his hand an angel is created. The meaning of this is that by that noble action for which he is preparing himself the angels are created, and to create an angel means to attract an angel, so that he can communicate with it.
The Qur'an distinguishes five principal angels, of whom Azazil was the chief, the most powerful, the favorite of Allah. The Qur'an tells that Allah created a form made of earth. The angels were bidden to bring the substance for that form. That form was made into man, Ashraf al-Makhluqat, the Khalif of creation. All the angels were commanded to bow before him, but while all the other angels prostrated themselves, Azazil alone rebelled, saying, 'I have been chief of the angels. I will never bow before this thing made of earth.' It was pride, it was arrogance, it was hatred that made Azazil rebel, and he was degraded and deposed by God and called Shaitan (Satan).
The names of the five most important angels are: Jebrail, Israil, Israfil, Azazil, and Azrail.
Jebrail, who in the Bible is called Gabriel, is the compeller, the spirit that compels men to the way of Allah, to do something for Allah. He came to the prophets, he comes to those who have given up everything, all the desires and the interests of the world, for the sake of God.
Israil comes as inspirer. Some call what he brings inspiration, others call it revelation. This comes also to the pure-hearted musicians and poets.
Israfil is the further revelation, the explanation of the revelation. For instance, if there comes a revelation that a friend is arriving, the further revelation reveals why he is coming. The reason of everything is explained. By communication with these two influences all the metaphysics, all the philosophy that one tries to learn by study, can be acquired through inspiration, without any learning.
Azazil is the spirit that leads towards darkness, towards wrong actions, towards evil. Hatred is a wrong kind of attachment. By his evil action a person attracts this spirit. When a person goes astray he attracts this influence, communion with this spirit.
Azrail is the spirit of death. When he comes, then comes the death of everything, the destruction.
The Soul's Experience
The conditions of the ordinary soul when it first leaves the body is confusion; for before death it has realized that it is dying, yet it is really only after death that it lives. It is like a person who is alive thinking that he is dead. As long as this condition remains the soul goes no further; it is this state which is called purgatory. When the soul has realized itself, when it has realized that it is still living, then the clouds of confusion are dispersed and the soul finds itself, together with the atmosphere which belongs to it.
All souls return to God, some with open eyes, some blindly. Every moment of this life is an opportunity, whose value is so great that all the pains, all the troubles, all the sorrow of existence would be too small a price for even one moment of life. It is as if God threw darts. Some reach the point at which they are aimed, others fall short, others might go much further than man is now.
The being of God is a perfect being. The riches that the souls bring from the earth, by knowledge or by anything else, are no addition to God; for God it only means that something which was in the hand has come to the elbow. What difference does it make? It is all the same. Yet it is better that the thing of the hand should be in the hand rather than at the elbow. All that is known on earth and in heaven belongs to God; it already exists and is already in Him, the perfect Being.
No soul is attracted to what we call Satan or the devil. Our soul does not like us to do what is wrong for us. Our soul does not like us to be unkind. Every soul has in it the highest attributes, and has a tendency towards the light and a tendency towards awakening. If it has not there are reasons for it. Either the soul has gathered around it vibrations that are undesirable; or it has not come through the proper channel of manifestation and therefore it is weak; or it clings to its undesirable habits and ideas and will not let them go. The condition of the soul can turn any place into heaven. Not only the earth but even hell could be turned into heaven, i£ only the soul attained the perfection which is its only goal.
On its return the soul passes through the same planes and states that it comes through on its way to manifestation, with all the experiences it has acquired in its life on earth. When it arrives it is blank; when it leaves it goes away with the experience that it has gathered. Souls keep their individuality after death, for individuality is not made by the physical body; individuality is covered by the physical body. When the cover disappears, individuality still remains.
All that the soul has borrowed through manifestation, it returns to its origin. It is natural that the physical body should be the earth's due. And when it is paid back to the earth it is .just like giving the child into its mother's arms. It is a most natural process. The soul does not wither and get worn out, but what it has gathered around it on earth, what it has imagined itself to be, all that it has taken from the lower plane, withers and becomes worn out; not its real self but its false self.
The one who does not come to God-realization in this life will come to it on the way towards the goal. It will be perhaps easier there, but it is better to do all one can on earth. Nothing that we really value can we put off till tomorrow. What one puts off one does not value enough.
Souls which have passed away are nearer to us in one way than those on earth, but in another way they are further. They are nearer in the way that if they want to get in contact with us, or we with them, it is more easily done than with the souls on the earth. But when we look at the difference between the plane on which they live and our plane, they are further than those on earth, because there are more means of communication here.
Souls which have passed away are engaged in doing the same thing that they were doing before. Their world is more beautiful than nature on earth, for mind is nature also; mind is an improvement upon nature and it is part of nature at the same time. For instance the idea of paradise is an improvement upon nature, and while on earth paradise is an imagination, in the hereafter the same paradise will become a reality. To create happiness for oneself and others, therein lies the whole of religion and the whole of philosophy. After passing away some remain under the impression of death for a long time, but one cannot compare the time of this world with the time of the other worlds. The time of the next world is much longer than the time of this world. The deeper the impressions are, the longer one has to remain in purgatory. The sages, the prophets, have shown their spiritual advancement at the moment of their death. That is the time when the truth comes out; then there can be no falsehood, and a man has no chance of acting. When his soul is passing from the earth, where his heart was is shown--on the earth or in heaven. Besides, the person who has earned peace throughout his life then shows his wealth, he passes away peacefully and with willingness to meet what awaits him in the life beyond.
The soul upon its journey back to consciousness passes through the world of jinns until finally it reaches the infmite goal where the soul is no more individual. It still has a slight feeling of 'I'. It does not distinguish between 'mine' and 'thine', but when a man has thought of himself all his life as 'I' he will still keep a slight sense of 'I'.
The soul is hindered in its progress by being called back to earth by mediums and sorrowful friends. Suppose a person is going somewhere, and all the time people call out, 'Please stop, we want you', he will never be able to get to his destination; the purpose for which he is going is hindered. To call a soul back would be acting against nature itself. It is better to help the soul to go forward, and that one does by sending one's loving thought.
The meeting of a soul going towards manifestation and a soul returning from there may be unconscious. Also, a soul going towards the earth cannot ask for advice or help from a returning soul, because his mind has not yet become like that of a human being and he is passive. What he receives he gets without asking, in the same way that an infant does not ask for something; it only wants to have it. Just as human beings are generally not conscious of angels or jinns, so the angels are not all conscious of jinns, nor are all jinns conscious of angels, although some are. A soul can attract a jinn to help it to accomplish something on earth, and a jinn may attract a soul for the same purpose. A jinn is not really interested in accomplishing anything on earth, but when it sees what is going on there it may become interested. A person who does not go out of town has no interest outside the town, but when he goes to the country, his interest is awakened.
One may ask if a jinn who is sent to the earth looks like a human being. The jinn who is on the jinn plane is quite distinct as a jinn; but when a soul which is very much impressed by the jinn plane has come on earth, it will show something of the jinn even in form and features.
Souls return through the jinn world and the angel world by the same way by which they have come. But the ones who have realized God on earth do not stop there; they go to God while on the earth. There is no condition of having to go to God through the outer death; the condition which the Sufis call Fana is no crucifixion, for God is nearer to them than anything else. To the jinn world is one step; to the angel world is two steps; but to God there is no journey: He is there.
The joy of life is the joy of the journey. If one could close one's eyes and be put immediately on top of the Himalayas, one would not enjoy it as much as the one who climbs and goes from one peak to another, and sees the different scenery and meets the different people on the way. The whole joy is in the journey.
There are many souls who after having passed away try to communicate with the people on earth, but generally these do not receive their communications clearly. However, unconsciously they do receive them, and very often they do errands for those who have passed away, thinking they are doing it because they themselves wish to. In order that a person should be convinced of the reality of the spiritual world, why should the spirits strive? Why should not man develop his faith? And if man is so obstinate as to avoid developing himself here, he will avoid development even in the spirit world. For in man is the possibility of faith; the jinn world is not necessary as an intermediary.
Children and infants who die also come to spiritual maturity, often on the jinn plane and sometimes on the plane of the angels. It depends upon the qualities of the soul and upon the object it is meant to accomplish.
Souls that are not in tune will enter the angelic heavens all the same; even in heaven there is no peace. The inharmonious people follow the harmonious ones even there. One soul is more harmonious than another, but in the music of the heavens they all fit in, just as in our music we would not want everything to be alike. And the souls who are still out of rhythm will continue to have the choice of becoming harmonious; for there is a choice at every step in the heavens too. Life is progressive, and that is why there is always hope of improvement.
If a link of sympathy exists, then the light of those who are our well-wishers, either in the sphere of the jinns or in the angelic heavens, will certainly be thrown upon those on earth. Their love, tenderness, and goodness shine upon those on earth just like the love, tenderness, and goodness of parents towards their children. In short, illuminated souls in whatever sphere they are will be showing their light.
The soul is continually on the way towards improvement, therefore even in the angelic world the soul is not quite perfect. The perfection is in the goal, not in the soul.
In a way there is a difference in the degree and experience of happiness of the soul going towards manifestation, and of a soul returning; but the difference is like that of notes in music. This applies particularly to the souls returning to the goal, who have acquired something from the earth or from the sphere of the jinns which has influenced the tone and rhythm of their being; and therefore they so to speak tell the legend of their past in the music they make in the heavens of the angels.
There is a relationship between the bodies of souls on the different planes, because they borrow their body from the clay of the plane where they are, and from that comes the connection caused by the clay or matter of that plane.
The soul, while being a current, has two kinds of atoms, physical atoms and mental atoms. If one garb is thrown away the other garb is not free from individuality. It goes on living; it lives longer than the physical body. Life is limited for the very reason that substance is limited. Mind and feeling have their own life, they do not belong to the brain but to the original condition; that is why the mind lives longer than the body. The hereafter means living in the inner garb. One still continues one's life in the hereafter because the soul is consciousness itself.
The higher body of the soul is formed from the lower body of the same soul; there is no break. It is a continuation. Something is taken, although not everything can be taken.
In the jinn world there will be silence. Silence is necessary just as sleep is necessary for repose; but at the same time there will be action, and its speed will be incomparably greater than the speed of action on the earth. Spirits on the jinn plane meet with all kinds of experiences, just as on the earth; they can even have accidents or get killed. But in the jinn sphere it will be easier for us to see our goal, for the possibilities there are greater as there is less limitation.
It happens that jinns are sent to the earth with a mission, like angels. The jinns are capable of knowing their imagination to be imagination, their mind being clearer than that of man.
Jinns are able to communicate with spirits returning from the earth; but it is with them as with the inhabitants of a certain country who may have heard of other countries, but are generally much happier in their own, with their own way of living; and when some go out and bring back knowledge from the other countries, it may not be agreeable to the ones who remained at home.
The path of the jinn is the path of beauty, as the path of every soul is one of beauty; and every soul, good or bad, is seeking after beauty. When it steps wrongly on the path we call it evil, and when it steps rightly on the path of beauty we call it victory.
The scenery of the jinn world is peculiar to itself. It is a negative state of what one sees positively in this world, but there is more beauty there than one can find on earth. In a way it interpenetrates, but at the same time it has its own peculiarity which cannot be compared with the beauty of this earth. The reason is that manifestation on this plane has limitations owing to its rigidity. The higher the world, the fewer are the limitations to be met with.
Is there no illness or impression of illness on the jinn plane? There is; as there is illness on the plane of the earth so there are certain discomforts on the other planes. But the healing power of the soul is such that even on earth it can heal the body it finds itself in, and the illness it takes from the earth it heals in the hereafter. The struggle is easier there, but some of the discomfort will remain on that plane, for life is a continual struggle.
Very often it happens that a soul which had meant to go on towards the physical plane remains in the jinn plane out of love for a soul already there. It is love that takes one forward, and it is love that holds one back. The difference is that it is a higher love that takes one forward, and it is a lower love that holds one back. Once a soul has individualized itself on a certain plane, it becomes an inhabitant of that plane; it does not go forward.
The Law of Heredity
Heredity has been much thought of among all peoples and in all ages. If we look at the animal kingdom we see that the lion cub is never the offspring of the snake, nor are toads hatched from pigeon's eggs; the oak tree will not produce dates nor do roses spring from thistles.
We see in the East that of all breeds of horses the Arab horse is the best. One slight touch of the whip will make it leap any obstacle or cover any distance, while there are other horses that are like donkeys, on whose backs dozens of lashes are laid and they put one foot forward and stop, and again twenty lashes are given to them and they take one step forward. The Arabs value their horses so highly that they preserve the breed and never allow it to be mixed with any other strain. Among dogs there are some who will follow anyone. Whoever gives them a bone is their master, and if another person gives them meat, they leave the first and run after the other. And there are others who follow only one master, who obey only one and sometimes even sacrifice their life for him. It depends upon the breed, the heredity.
In the East they have considered this subject of heredity very much and have attached great importance to it. The son of a poet will always be a poet, the son of a musician is expected to be a musician. If a man handles weapons they ask him, 'Are you the son of a soldier?' The son of a miner will never do the work of a shepherd, and the son of a shepherd will never do the work of a miner. A great many words of abuse have more to do with the parents than with the person to whom they are addressed, and a great many words of praise have to do with the ancestors, not with the person of whom they are spoken.
In India, in Rajputana, there is a family of poets whose ancestors have been poets for ten or fifteen generations, and they are all of them great and wonderful poets. They are called Shighrakavi, improvisers, and are appointed to the courts of the Maharajas. Their work is to stand up in the assembly upon any occasion, and to recite verses, in rhyme and meter, in a manner suitable to the occasion and to the people present.
In ancient times, when sons of kings and great people were often driven from their country and wandered unknown in other lands, the way of recognizing them was always by some test of their quality. It has happened in the history of the world that slaves have become kings, and yet they could not keep themselves from showing from the throne, through their grandeur, glimpses of their slavish nature.
Is it the soul that transmits its qualities, or is it the mind or the body that transmits qualities? This is a vast subject. Before explaining it I will say, as to the word soul, that there are some people who call soul those qualities which compose the individuality. This is not the soul but the mind. The soul has no qualities, it is the pure consciousness and therefore it does not transmit any qualities.
When the soul starts from its original point, it comes first to the world of the Farishta, the angels, and is impressed with the angelic qualities. The angels are absorbed in the hunger for beauty and the thirst for song. They do not distinguish good and bad, high and low. The infant, who represents the angel on earth, always turns to what appears to it radiant and beautiful. There are two sorts of angels, those who have never manifested as man, and those spirits who upon their way back to the infinite have reached the world of the angels. Love, light, and lyric are the attributes of the latter, and from them the soul receives these impressions. Devotion, service, and worship are the attributes of the former. The angels are masculine and feminine; the former are called Malak, the latter Hur.
In the world of the angels the soul for years and years enjoys these experiences. When the desire for more experience urges it on, it goes forth and comes to the world of jinns, which is the astral plane. In the Bible we read that Adam was driven out of paradise; this means that the wish for more experience makes the soul leave the world of the angels and go to the astral plane and the physical plane.
The occupation of the jinns is to imagine, reason, and think. The jinns are of two sorts: there are those who have never manifested physically and there are those spirits who have left the earth with all the load of their actions and experiences upon them. The jinns also are masculine and feminine, and are called Gulman and Peri. From the first sort of jinns, those who have not manifested physically, the soul receives the impressions of imagination and thought. The soul that leaves the earth can take to the world of the angels only whatever love, good feelings, and kindness it may have. Even its love and kindness and its good feelings it cannot take higher than the world of the angels; these are still too heavy for the higher plane.
For there is a higher plane, and on that plane there is no individuality, nothing but the infinite consciousness. All the rest the soul must leave in the astral plane, and until it can leave behind all the evil that it has gathered it must remain there, as it is too heavy to go higher. It is like milk that is put over the fire: when all the watery part has evaporated, the cream, the good, the essential part of the milk remains. This plane is just like a street where someone is walking with a bundle. He says to a soul, 'Will you take this bundle?' The soul is inexperienced, and so it says, 'Yes, is it a nice bundle? Has it a good sound or a good perfume?' It takes the bundle, and receives all the impressions that go with it.
Every soul possesses the best qualities. However wicked a person may be, be assured that his soul possesses the best qualities as a special inheritance, though they are covered up by all that has been gathered afterwards. And there is always a possibility of spiritual progress for every soul, even for the most wicked.
The soul, on its journey from the unseen to the seen world, receives impressions from the souls which are on their return journey from the seen to the unseen. In this way the soul collects the first merits and qualities. It is this which forms a line for the soul to follow, and it is this line that leads it to the parents from whom it inherits its later attributes. The soul receives the impressions of another soul if it is attuned to that other soul. For instance a soul meeting the soul of Beethoven receives the impression of Beethoven's music, and then is born with the musical qualities of Beethoven. The upholders of the theory of reincarnation say that he is the reincarnation of Beethoven; the Sufi says that if they mean that Beethoven's mind is reincarnated in him, it may be so; but as the spirit comes from the unlimited, he says it need not necessarily be called reincarnation. Therefore a person of poetical gifts may be born in the family of a statesman where there was never a poet before.
The soul of a saint or murshid has remained long in the world of the angels, and being more impressed by it, it brings with it the angelic qualities of that world.
When the Bible speaks of 'the son of God', and the 'son of man', it means that he is a son of God who has recognized the eternal spirit as his parent, and that he is a son of man who has recognized himself as the son of his parents who are as limited as he. We recognize our father and mother as our origin. The parents claim the child as their own, and so delude themselves. Its origin is the universal spirit; and in this we are all brothers and sisters, without distinction of high or low, of race or caste, of creed or religion.
Each soul is like a ray of the sun or of any light. Its work is to project itself, to go forth as far as it can. It is creative and responsive. It creates its means, its expression, and it is impressed by whatever comes before it, in proportion to its interest in that. The soul goes always to what appears to it beautiful and radiant, and so it goes on and on and finds different qualities and different experiences and collects them round it, until at last it finds the mother's womb.
A child may or may not inherit the qualities and defects of its parents. If the impressions previously received by the soul are stronger it does not inherit them. Very wicked parents may have a very saintly child, and very good parents may have a very bad child.
The mental attributes of the parents are inherited by impression on the mental plane. The thought, the feeling of the parents are inherited by the child as a quality. If the father is engaged in thinking, 'I should build an orphanage', the child will have a philanthropic disposition. If the father is thinking, 'This person is my enemy, I should revenge myself on him', the child will have a vindictive disposition. If the mother admires something very much, for instance flowers, the child will have that love of beauty in its nature. Also the qualities and features of the relations and of other persons of whom one of the parents thinks a great deal are impressed on the child. To explain the relation between heredity and environment, one may say that heredity is the foundations of the house, and environment is the building itself; and from this one may conclude which has the more importance.
Often a child is like an uncle or an aunt of the father or mother; why is this? It has two aspects: it may be either that the father or mother has the qualities of this relation, although in them they have not fully developed, and those qualities develop in the child; or it may be that the grandmother or grandfather or other relation is so much attached to his descendants that his spirit watches and impresses with his qualities the child that is born in that family. Heredity is a matter of vibrations. There must be harmony in the number of vibrations, in the same way that color and sound are made by the harmony of vibrations. Thus a person may be more like his grandfather than his father. If the grandfather has been a poet, the grandson may again be a poet if the number of the vibrations corresponds, even when the son is not one.
It is true that genius is transmitted by heredity and develops at every step, but it is sometimes found that the child of a very great person happens to be most ordinary, and sometimes the child of a most worthy person proves to be most unworthy. This may be explained in the following manner: every manifestation of genius has three stages, Uruj, Kemal, and Zeval, ascent, climax, and decline. When the genius is in the ascendant it develops more and more in every generation; when it reaches its climax it surpasses all previous manifestations of genius in that family; when it is in the decline it shows gradually or suddenly the lack or loss of genius. It is thus with families, nations, and races.
That which is outward is given in heritage more than that which is inward. A man may not be very like his father in looks or nature, yet he inherits his property; the State will give the property to the son. It is inherited because it is more outward. The qualities of the body are inherited more than those of the mind, because they are more outward.
Every physical atom of the parents becomes radiant and its qualities are imparted to the child. In the case of a father who has liked drink, the child, of course, is born without the tendency for strong drink, but as it grows and develops, the cells of its body, being the same as those of the father's, may have the same craving for drink. And so it is with all vices; though the parents would never wish to impart them to their children, yet they do so unconsciously by their weakness and neglect.
Often a man has so much concern for his posterity that he earns money and amasses it, not spending it on himself, in order that he may leave it to his children. He even gives his life on the battlefield that his children may enjoy the fruits of the victory. But if he only knew how much influence the life that he leads has on his posterity he would think it of more value to keep his life pure and elevated, both in health and mind, in order that his children may inherit the wealth of humanity, which is much more precious than earthly wealth and possessions.
Coming now to the question whether more qualities are inherited from the paternal side or the maternal side, I will say that the qualities inherited from the father are more deep-seated while those inherited from the mother may be more apparent, because the father's inheritance is the substance, while the mother's is the mold. The soul has many more attributes of the father because these are the fundamental, original attributes; the attributes of the mother are added to these, they are more active because they are later attributes. Those qualities which are first impressed upon the soul are stronger and those attributes which are acquired later are more active. From association with its mother, from her training, a child acquires very many of her attributes.
A man may not like the qualities of his father and may hide them. A small child may have a face just like its mother's, but at some period of its life it will grow so like its father in looks that it is astonishing. A coward by association with brave people may become brave; he may go to the war, but then, when he hears the guns, the cowardice which was the original attribute of his soul will show itself. Although the father's qualities are stronger, the responsibility of the mother is far greater. It is she who molds the child. The mother's responsibility is a hundred, a thousand times greater than the father's. Therefore mystical knowledge is very necessary for women; in these times of civilization this should not be withheld from them. Control of mind is very important for women.
It is the mother's fear that gives the child fear; her anger gives it anger; her contempt gives it contempt. Her bad surroundings and impressions give the child bad impressions; her good and desirable impressions give the child good and desirable impressions. It is she who molds the human race. From her are born the prophets and murshids. The credit for all good and great people is hers; but at the same time children are often born weak and defective because of her want of control and foolishness. By putting too many coals on the fire, the fire may be covered up and the flame cannot come out.
Krishna is often represented with his mother Devaki, and Christ with his mother the Virgin Mary. This is woman's greatest merit and glory. In the Gayan it is said, 'The mother was the stepping-stone of Jesus to Christhood.' This means that human nature is such that man often forgets, seeing the great glory of the Master, that modest and humble help given at the time of need which enabled the Master to show forth his divine glory. The soul which was to expand as Christ was enabled to come on earth by the mother; and that is why in every case thought and consideration for the mother are important. Even Jesus Christ, the manifestation of the Almighty God, was dependent on his mother for his manifestation.
A child may be very like its mother in appearance, yet the quality is the father's. For instance, if the father is very generous, and the mother is finer, the child will perhaps be both generous and finer. In this way the evolution of the world goes on by the intermingling of nations and races. Those families who keep themselves segregated in the end become weak and very stupid. For this reason the Prophet in Islam allowed all races and castes to intermarry, because the time had come for the human race to evolve in this way. When a child is different from both its mother and its father, this is partly because of its heritage from other ancestors on either side, but also because of its astral impressions. Besides every thought, speech, and action of the child builds its self from the moment of its birth upon earth. It is for this reason that there can be such a difference between father and son, while there is no difference between fleas or mosquitoes of East and West.
If we inherit the attributes of our father, our mother, our grandfather and forefathers, and acquire the attributes of the jinns and angels, how can we help what our character is? A man may say, 'I have a quick temper because my father had a quick temper, I have a changeable disposition because that is in my family; I cannot help this, it is my character.' This is true in part, but it is developed by belief in it. The soul acquires and casts off attributes and qualities throughout life. A coward who joins the army through hearing always of bravery, by living with soldiers may in time feel inclined to go to the war and to fight. A joyous person from being in the society of serious people may become serious, and a sad person from being with cheerful people may become cheerful. The soul acquires only those qualities in which it is interested, it will never take on those in which it is not interested. And the soul keeps only those attributes in which it is interested, it loses those in which it is not interested. However wicked a person may be, however many undesirable attributes he may have inherited, he can throw them all off by the power of will if he does not like them.
But can we change our physical body, can we change our face? We can. People become like those of whom they think much or with whom they associate. I have seen herdsmen whose faces have become very like those of the cattle and sheep with which they lived. It is our thoughts and feelings that change our appearance, and if we had control over them we should develop the appearance that we wish to develop.
When one looks at pictures of Christ, of Zoroaster, of Moses and of other prophets, one will see that they resemble each other. These pictures are drawn from imagination; the painters have not seen their subjects. Are they then not lifelike? They are, for the mind is greater than the camera. There exist pictures of the murshids of the Sufi order, from Kwaja Moin-ud-Din Chishti onwards, and these pictures of ten or twelve murshids and their mureeds are very much alike. If it were imagination, why should not imagination produce different pictures, as the nature of imagination is more to differentiate than to unite?
But for those who are walking in the path of truth there is no heredity. By realizing their divine origin they free themselves from all earthly inheritance. As Christ said 'My Father in heaven', so they realize their origin from the spirit, and by their concentration and meditation they can create all the merits they wish for and clear away from their soul all influences which they do not like to possess.
When we study religions, comparing them, we find that part of the world has believed in reincarnation, but most of the world has not held this belief. Krishna, Shiva, and Buddha are said to have taught the doctrine of reincarnation; Moses, Christ, and Mohammed have said nothing about it. This divides religions into two groups; but when we make a deeper study we see that we can combine the two, for the tendency of the Sufi is rather to unite than to differ.
There are four widely-spread religions, Brahminism, Buddhism, Christianity, and Islam, which have great influence upon humanity through their diffusion. Let us ask each what it has to say on the matter.
Islam is silent on this subject; Christianity says nothing. In their scriptures if there may rarely be a verse which supports this idea, there will be ten verses which disprove it.
Let us now consider Brahminism. There are four grades of Brahmins: Brahmachari, Grihasta, Vanaprasti, and Sanyasi. The three lower grades will perhaps answer, 'Yes, there is reincarnation, but it depends upon our Karma, our actions. If we, who are men, behave like animals, we may come again as animals; we may be a cow or a dog or a cat, or else we may be a human being of a lower order than we are now; and if we live a righteous life we shall find ourselves in a better condition in our next incarnation.' When we ask the highest authority among Hindus, the Sanyasi, he will say, 'You will perhaps reincarnate, I shall not. I am Jivan Mukhta, free; I am above the cycle of births and deaths.'
What has Buddhism to say about reincarnation? It says that as the world is in evolution, we shall by no means become animals, but evolve into higher and higher incarnations until we have overcome all weaknesses and have reached Nirvana, perfection; then we return no more. By this we see that there are only two believers in reincarnation, and even these two have contrary beliefs.
We read in the Bible (John xiv. 3), 'I will come again and receive you unto myself,' and (Acts i. II), 'This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.' This does not refer to the person of Christ, but to the innermost being of the Master, which was in reality the Being of God. If it concerned his person he would have said, 'I shall come, but you also will come again, either in a better condition or in a worse state of being', but nothing of the kind is said. One might say, 'Why then did the Master say 'I', why did he not clearly say "God"?' The answer is that divine personality is the losing of the thought of one's limited self, the absolute merging into the divine and only personality; then the ego becomes the divine ego. The 'I' is not identification with the limited personality but with the personality of God. When Christ said I he meant God.
One reads the same in the Masnavi of Jelal-ud-Din Rumi, 'Seventy-two forms I have worn and have come to witness this same spring of continual change.' This also refers to the divine Consciousness which wears various forms and comes to witness this world of changes; it is not the seventy-two comings of Maulana Rumi himself. Seventy-two is symbolical of many; otherwise it would mean that since the human creation the divine Consciousness visited the earth only seventy-two times, which would be very few times for such a great length of time.
There are many statements in the Qur'an such as these:'Some faces on that day shall be downcast', said of the wicked, and: 'They will be as monkeys, despised and hated.' The real meaning of the former is, 'We will cause the brightness, or the happiness, of their expression to fade away by throwing light upon their hidden crimes which so long have kept them bright and happy'. The meaning of the latter is, 'Those who have imitated that which they were not, will be taken for that which they are in reality, and not for that which they falsely pretend to be'; in other words, 'We will lay bare the mockery of the impostors'.
In the Gospel we read (John ix. 1-3), 'And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man which was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, "Neither hath this man sinned, nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him."' This needs no interpretation, for it plainly says that the man's blindness was not the punishment of his former sins.
In the Qur'an it is written, 'It is He who multiplied you on the earth, and to Him shall you be gathered.' This denies a return to earth. Mention is nude, however, of another life in that sura. 'Every soul must taste of death, and ye shall only be paid your reward in full on the resurrection day.' Here the resurrection is spoken of, the making alive of the souls without the physical body, and it is plainly said that this existence will be as clear and distinct as is our life on earth.
As the world advances in intellectual development it becomes more and more interested in novelty; whatever is new is taken up and often the new idea is accepted and followed. The idea of reincarnation has made a great impression in the present age, because it appeals at once to the scientific faculty and reasoning natures and it also satisfies those who wish to keep a fast hold on their individuality.
I remember, when at an early age I first knew of death, how for hours I was sad, thinking, 'This, my body, the only means of experiencing life, will one day be in the grave. I shall be away from all things and beings that are the interest of life to me today. This whole environment which interests me and keeps me engaged all day long will one day be a mist; neither shall I see anybody nor will anybody see me; all whom I love now will one day be separated from me.' Now my own experience in the past clearly tells me how others must feel at the idea of turning into what seems nothing after being something. It is just like when a dream interests us so much that if we wake up in the midst of it and realize at once that we were dreaming, we yet like to close our eyes again and give ourselves up to the enjoyment of the experience. Such is the case of all those who are so much interested in the dream of life that the idea of death, which is a more real state of being, is horrible to them. They would rather live a life unreal but individual than a life real but unrealized.
The idea of reincarnation often comforts those who think that it is too soon to renounce the pleasures of life in order to commune with God. 'Perhaps,' they say, 'in our next life on earth we shall achieve what we have not achieved in this.' Also, it consoles those who have lost their loved ones, for they think these are not lost for ever, but will be born again, and often they look for them whenever a child is born among their acquaintances. It consoles those people too who have not obtained the fruit of their desires in this life and have always longed and hoped for something which they could not get; these build their whole hope on gaining it in their next incarnation.
This idea often becomes a great hindrance to real spiritual attainment, though it is helpful to a person who is discontented with his life, suffering from pain, poverty, or illness, and who thinks that it is his Karma to suffer this and that, but that when he has paid the uttermost farthing his circumstances will change. Then he has no more complaint to make; though he knows he has not in this life committed sins worthy of such punishment, still he thinks that there is justice, as he has perhaps sinned in his past life. The idea seems reasonable, especially to a person who looks at life from a practical point of view. Every man weighs the world on his own scales. And the thought of reincarnation is still more helpful to those who do not believe in God or know His being, also to those who neither believe in everlasting life nor can understand it. For some people it is very consoling to think that they will come to this earthly plane again and again, brought there by their Karma, rather than to think, as many materialists do, that when we are dead we are done with for ever.
The reason why the doctrine of reincarnation was taught to the Hindus and Buddhists must have been that the people of India at that time were very highly developed intellectually, in philosophy, in science, in logic, in the material phenomena, and believed in law rather than in love.
In the present age, especially in the West, people are now beginning to search for truth by the light of science and logic, as did the Hindus of the Vedic period. The peoples of India were working along the same lines at the origin of Brahminism and still more in the time of Buddhism.
Then, especially among the Mongols, a people most advanced in arts and sciences, the enlightened were very logical and scientific, with little devotional tendency, and the masses had innumerable objects of worship. There the average person could not conceive the idea of the soul, the hereafter, and God as it was propagated in another part of the East by the Hebrew prophets, so the theory of reincarnation was the best means of appealing to their reason instantly in order to break their former ideas. But as it is the nature of the human heart to worship someone, naturally their worship was directed to Buddha.
There is every probability that this idea came originally from the Devata, the divine messengers born among the Hindus. Each of these declared that he was the incarnation of Brahma, God, and each in turn claimed to be the reincarnation of the preceding Deva, whom he succeeded. In claiming to be the incarnation of Brahma or the Deva they succeeded, they did not mean that in their guise God was born or their predecessor reborn, but that they had realized God or that they possessed the same knowledge and mission as their predecessor. When the others asked them, 'Of what are we the incarnations?' they were obliged to give them some explanation of a like kind, and they told each one that which his condition of life suggested to them.
When the four Varnas or castes were made in India, Brahmin, Kshattria, Vaisha and Sudra, these were not in fact different castes but classes. The whole administration was arranged in this way: Brahmins to study, meditate and be worshipped, Kshattrias to fight and guard the country, Vaishas to carry on commerce, and Sudras to labor and serve. None save Brahmins had Adhikar, the right to study the Vedas, the books of mysticism and philosophy; even Kshattrias and Vaishas had to be content with the worship of the Brahmins and with the Purana, the religion taught in legends; Sudras, the laboring class, were denied even that.
It has always been the tendency of the stronger and more intelligent men to keep the weak and simple down. Owing to the inclination of the higher caste to keep itself pure from further admixture of the lower classes, a religious rule was made enforcing the belief that the Sudra, the lowest, could not become a Vaisha, the Vaisha could not become a Kshattria, nor a Kshattria be admitted among Brahmins, the highest and supreme class of the time, unless by his good actions he had made it possible that he should be born, in the next incarnation, in a family of the higher caste. The idea of reincarnation, as a belief generally held, was made the basis of the Hindu religion, upon which the whole building of Brahminism was erected. But everyone in the world has an inclination to raise his head and climb up higher, if he can, from that level upon which he may have been set in life. Verily the light of truth, the beauty of nature, the desire for freedom, the idea of unity cannot be covered up; sooner or later it flashes forth.
The law of Karma or action is the philosophy which a reasoning brain holds in support of reincarnation, saying, 'There is no such being as God as an intervener in our life's affairs, but it is we who by our actions produce results similar to them. There is the ever-ruling law of cause and effect, therefore every occurrence in life must be in accordance with it. If we do not get the results of our good or wicked deeds immediately that is because they need time to mature so as to produce similar results;if they do not do so in this life, then the law forces us to be born again in another incarnation, in order to experience in that the effect of our deeds.'
Looking at the wheel of evolution we see that we do not always rise, we also fall, we do not always become better people, sometimes man grows worse than he was. The nature of evolution is like a wheel turning round, not rising always. This gives us reason to doubt how far the Buddhistic idea of better and better reincarnations can prove to be logical.
In support of reincarnation a story is told of two friends who were going out on a holiday. One said, 'Let us go to the temple, there we shall hear the name of God, we shall be uplifted.' The other said, 'You are always such a melancholy boy; you always find such dull occupations. We will not go to the temple, we will go where we can enjoy ourselves; we will go to the Gaiety.' The first said, 'I do not like that idea, I will not go with you.' So they parted. The one who went to the temple on the way met with an accident from a wagon on the road and his foot was crushed. He thought, 'What a good thing that my friend did not come with me; he too would have been injured.' The other on his way to the Gaiety had great luck, he found a purse full of gold coins. He thought, 'Thank God! If my friend had been with me, I should have had to share this with him.'
As soon as the first had recovered a little, he went to a Brahman and asked him, 'What was the reason that I, who was on my way to the temple, had the bad luck to have my foot crushed, and my friend, who was on his way to the Gaiety, had the good luck to find this gold purse?' The Brahmin said, 'The reason is that you in your former life did some very bad action, and you were meant to be killed, and not only killed but hanged for everybody to see, but it happened that only your foot was crushed. Your friend in his former life did some very good action and he was meant to be a king, but it happened for his present sins that he only found a purse full of gold coins.'
If we believe in this idea we must first understand where evil ends and where good begins. It has never been possible even for a deep thinker to draw a line between good and evil. What distinction do we then find, from this point of view, between good and evil, if we look at it closely? None but the difference of degree and difference of point of view. What seems good to one person to another does not, and so it is with evil. Also every evil to the eye of the seer is a lesser good, which in comparison with the greater good appears different from that and so is called evil.
And if the wheel of births and deaths depended upon cause and effect, I should say it would have to go on for ever and ever and there would never be an end to it. According to this doctrine, not only the punishment of our sins, but even the reward of the good we have done would drag us back to earth; we should have to come back on earth in any case. Even should we not wish for a reward we cannot stop the wheel, for we have no power over nature's law. What a helpless condition! Neither does God intervene in our affairs, that He might stop it with His all-might, nor can we, helpless human beings subject to the law of came and effect.
Again, we see that everything existing can be destroyed by some other thing or substance. There is no stain that cannot be removed by some chemical solution. There is no record which cannot be erased from the surface of the paper; even if it is engraved upon stone it can be scraped off.. Man, the master of the whole creation, has found the means to destroy all things; and it is very astonishing if he is unable to find a solution to wipe off the impressions of Karma, life's deeds, so as to escape the wheel of births and deaths, when he professes to know all things of' the earth and claims to have solved all the mysteries of the heavens.
Some believers in God say in support of reincarnation, 'God is just. There are many who are lame or blind or unhappy in life, and this is the punishment for the faults they have committed before, in a former incarnation. If it were not so, that would be injustice on the part of God.' That makes God only a reckoner and not a lover, and it restricts Him to His justice like a judge bound by the law. The judge is the slave of law, the forgiver is its master. In fact we ourselves, limited as we are, have mercy in us, so that often if someone has done something against us we would forgive. If he only bows before us we say, 'He has humiliated himself, I will forget.' Even if a son has caused his mother much sorrow, when he is in trouble, he only needs to say, 'Mother, I have done this, but you are the one to whom I can come for sympathy', and she will say, 'My child, I forgive you, though at the time it made me sad.' If we, who are full of faults and errors, have in us that little spark of mercy inherited from God and can forgive, how can we think that God, the most Merciful, will reckon our faults like a judge? We are as little children before Him. Regarding God as a personal being, how can we think that He, whose being is love, whose action is love, who is all love, can weigh our actions as a judge would?
A judge, when someone is brought before him, after he has looked into the case, says, 'I have looked into your case and I find that you are guilty. You are given six months', or five years', or ten years' imprisonment. Your crime is very grave and so you must learn not to do it again.' But if we go to the blind and lame and ask them, 'Were you given this in punishment? Were you told so?' they say, 'No, we were told nothing.' Now how are we to imagine that God could be so unjust as to punish them and yet not tell them of their crime?
If we return, then every child that is born should know what he was before. If only exceptional ones feel that they know what they were before, in another life, then it may be a delusion, a pretence, or a scheme for gaining notoriety by appearing to know what everybody does not know.
If God is most merciful, how could He govern us only by law devoid of love and compassion, when even we human beings forget and forgive another's fault in spite of law, reason, and logic, when moved by love, our divine inheritance? God is love, not law. Love in its lower manifestation turns into law by forming habits, yet it is not law which rules love, it is love that controls law.
The idea of forgiveness is the result of our idealizing God. As we idealize God so He proves to be. Sometimes the sins of a whole life may be wiped off in one instant; sometimes all the virtue and piety of a whole life may be lost by one sin.
A story is told that Moses was going to Mount Sinai and on his way he met a very pious person, who said to him, 'Moses, speak to God of me. All my life I have been pious, I have been virtuous, I have prayed to God, and I have had nothing but troubles and misfortunes.' A little later Moses met a man sitting in the street with a bottle of liquor. He called out, 'Moses! Where are you going?' Moses said, 'To Mount Sinai.' The man called out, 'To Mount Sinai? Then speak to God of me', for he was drunk.
Moses went to Mount Sinai and he told God of the pious person whom he had met. God said, 'For him there is a place in the heavens.' Then he told God of the drunken man whom he had met. God said, 'He shall be sent to the worst possible place in hell.'
Moses went away and first he met the drunken man. He told him, 'God says you shall be sent to the worst possible place in hell.' The man said, 'God spoke of me?' and he was so overjoyed that he could not contain himself but began to dance, just as a poor man might be overjoyed if he heard that a king had spoken of him, even if the king had said nothing good of him. Then he said, 'How happy should I be that He, the Creator and Sovereign of the universe, knows me, the great sinner.' Then Moses told the pious person what God had said. He said, 'Why not? I have spent all my life in the worship of God and in piety, sacrificing all else in life; and therefore I am entitled to have it.'
Both the pious person and the drunkard died, and Moses was curious to know what had become of them. He went to Mount Sinai and asked God. God said, 'The pious person is in hell, and the drunken man is in heaven.' Moses thought, 'Does God break His word?' God said, 'The drunkard's joy on hearing that We had spoken of him has wiped out all his sins. The pious person's virtue was worthless. Why could he not be satisfied if We made the sun shine and sent the rain?'
If anyone were to weigh his righteous actions against the myriad favors of God, all the righteous actions of every moment of his life would not compare with one moment of God's favor. Therefore the devotee forgets his righteous actions, looking only at the favor of God. As Amir says, 'When the pious was looking for the beloved God among the righteous, His mercy cried out, "Come hither. I am busy among sinners, forgiving them their
Man, the Seed of God
Man may most justly be called the seed of God. God the Infinite, most conscious within Himself, embraces His nature full of variety;in this way He is one and He is all. The whole of manifestation is just like a tree sprung from the divine root. Nature is like its stem and all the aspects of nature are like the branches, the leaves, the fruit, and the flower; and from this tree again the same seed is produced, the human soul, which was the first cause of the tree. This seed is the spirit of man, and as God comprehends the whole universe within Himself, being one, so man contains within himself the whole universe as His miniature. It is said in the Qur'an, 'In our own image we have created man.' Therefore neither can God be anything else than what He is, for the very reason that He is one and at the same time He is all, nor can man; neither can man be reincarnated nor can God.
The men Of science of today have admitted the fact that the whole skin of man is changed in so many years and they have also been able to discover that each atom of man's constitution changes so many times in life, renewing his body each time. If the body is subject to change, so is the mind, and it is only by these that man's person is identified. Again, in our food and drink we live upon so many small lives and so many small lives live upon us, dwelling in our blood, veins, tubes, and in the skin, all of which constitute our individuality. And in the mind our every thought and feeling is as alive as we, even such beings as the elementals, demons, and angels, which are created within us, from us, and of us, and yet may as fitly be called individuals as we. So in the end of the examination it is hard for a man to find out whether he exists as one or many.
In our dreams all the inhabitants of our mind resurrect, forming a world within ourselves. We see in the dream things and beings, a friend, a foe, an animal, a bird, and they come from nowhere, but are created out of our own selves. This shows that the mind of an individual constitutes a world in itself, which is created and destroyed by the conscious or unconscious action of the will, which has two aspects: intention and accident. We have experience of this world of mind even while awake, but the contrast between the world within and without makes the world without concrete and the world within abstract.
Someone may ask, 'If all that we see in the dream is we ourselves, then why do we even in the dream see ourselves as an entity separate from all the other things before us in the dream?' The answer is, because the soul is deluded by our external form, and this picture it recognizes as I, and all other images and forms manifesting before it in the dream stand in contrast to this I; therefore the soul recognizes them as other than I.
However, if it is one individual that reincarnates should we hold our changeable body to be an individual or our mind, both of which appear to be one and at the same time many? One might ask Jack, 'Which part of yourself is Jack, the eye, the nose, the ear, or the hand or foot, for each of them has a particular name? Or are your thoughts and feelings Jack? They are numerous, changeable, and diverse; you name them as such an imagination, such a feeling.' This shows that Jack stands aloof as the owner of all the finer and grosser properties that have grouped and formed an illusion before him, which, reflected upon his soul, makes him say, 'I, Jack'. He is the owner of all that he realizes around and about him, and yet each atom and vibration which has composed his illusionary self is liable to change, and to a separate and individual birth and death.
The soul on its journey to the infinite cannot turn back halfway; and when it reaches that goal, it experiences only the light, the wisdom, the love of God, and it loses two things: it loses all the marks of the experiences and thoughts of its manifestation, and it gradually loses its individuality and merges in the infinite, divine Consciousness.
If an earthen thing is thrown into the water it has a tendency to go to the bottom, to its own element. If water is accompanying fire on its journey as steam, its watery part still drips down. When fire travels with the air its smoke is taken a certain distance but in its higher spheres the air gets rid of the fire. When ether turns into spirit it drops its contact with the air element. Thus it is with the soul; on its return journey it gives back all these properties to their own sources, thus lightening its load on its way towards its own element. The earthly body goes to earth, its water part to the world of waters, its heat to the kingdom of heat, its air to the spheres of the air, its ether into the ethereal regions. Its impressions, thoughts, feelings, merits, qualities go as far as they can reach, and remain there wherever they are meant to be. Then it is the soul in its own essence that is left, merging into the ocean of consciousness where nothing of its previous properties remains.
Our personality is just like a bubble in the water. There is as little probability of a bubble once merged in the sea coming out again composed of the same portion of water, as there is of the soul once merged in the ocean of consciousness coming out again formed of the self-same portion of consciousness. The bubble may come back in the same place with the same portion of water, or it may be another portion of water. There may be half of the first drop of water in the second bubble, there may be a small part, or there may be some other portion of water added to it.
If one bubble comes, and we call that bubble John, and then we call another Jacob and a third Henry, yet they are all the same water, and if we call the water John then they are all the same John. All is the same spirit, the same life, involving itself into all the forms and the names. From this point of view there is no I, no you, no he, no she, no it, in the light of reality; all are but the differences of a moment.
Every bubble loses both reflections and any properties it possessed during its existence as soon as it merges into the water, and even if in one of a thousand chances it should come formed of the self-same portion of water, it would not retain its previous property. In the same way supposing, as a mere assumption, that the self-same portion of consciousness, which in any case is not so substantial and stable as water, could possibly appear again on the surface without any addition or deduction, it is utterly impossible that it should still possess its past qualities and impressions, for it has been absolutely purified by sinking into the consciousness. If even a drop of ink loses its ink property in the sea, why should not the ocean of consciousness purify its own element from all elements foreign to itself?
As Hinduism teaches the doctrine that bathing once in the Sangam at the confluence of the two rivers can purify man from all life's sins, how can it deny that this bath of the soul, sinking into the consciousness even once, purifies the soul from all the properties it has gathered during its previous life? In the first place, the nature of absorption into the Spirit is itself purification from the material state of being, and the very nature of manifestation is for the soul to arrive new and fresh.
Suppose we granted that cream was the reincarnation of milk, and butter was the third step of the reincarnation of milk, and its fourth reincarnation could be called ghee; then the question would arise, of what was milk the reincarnation? Milk is composed of several chemical substances, and its chemical arrangement changes the name, savor, smell, and effect. Butter cannot be called milk, nor is ghee cream. If there is anything which seems to exist through all the manifestations of the milk, it is the inner ruling current which groups and scatters atoms, compelling them to change, and which may be likened to the soul.
Also, if Jack has reincarnated as John, or John has reincarnated as Jack, what were both in the beginning? Were they two or one? If one became two, then one could become thousands, millions, and still he is one only.
The shooting forth of the soul from the consciousness can be symbolized as an arrow. The arrow shot up in the air goes up as far as the will and power of the bow-man has destined it to go, and when it reaches its utmost height its return begins. The death of the physical being is the return of that arrow. Of course, on its return it may perhaps be detained on its way, as the arrow is sometimes caught in the branches of a tree, but it returns some day or other to the earth, its own element. It does not go up again from there by any means. So it is with the human soul, which, after finishing its course on earth, returns to its origin, drawn by its power of attraction.
When we look at the world we see that everything makes a circle. The plant grows from the seed to its developed state and returns to dust. Man grows from childhood to youth, to maturity, then to old age. This, it is said, is an argument for our passing through many lives. But it is not the circle which journeys, but the point which, journeying, forms the circle and returns to the place from which it started. It is the consciousness that performs the journey and not the individual soul.
The drops of water in a fountain go up, some higher, some lower, some go a very little way, some rise very high. When each drop falls down it sinks into the stream, flowing away with it, and does not rise again, although the water of the same stream rises again and falls again in drops, which proves to us the fact that it is the water which rises and falls continually, not the drop; yet apparently it rises and falls as drops, though the portion of water in every drop is different.
One argument which the reincarnationists bring forward in support of their doctrine is that sometimes unusual genius or gifts are found in a child who does not seem to inherit them from its ancestors and cannot have acquired them from its surroundings. Sometimes in the slums a child is born which has great poetical genius which could not be traced to its father or mother nor to its forefathers; or it shows a great musical gift which was not found in its father or grandfather or ancestors.
The soul before coming to the face of the earth on its way to manifestation, for a very, very long time gathers the impressions of those souls whom it meets on its way, and takes on their attributes. In this way the attributes of the past souls are manifested again. A soul may receive the impressions of one soul or of a few souls or of many souls.
The soul on its way towards manifestation may meet the soul of a genius in poetry or music and take with it these impressions. When some very great or very good or philanthropic person has died you will find that soon after a child of like qualities will be born to balance the world. A child may be born with the qualities of Alexander the Great. This is because the new soul coming out towards manifestation has met the soul of Alexander and has become impressed with all his qualities or part of his qualities. Such a one may assert, 'I am the reincarnation of Alexander.' But the soul of Alexander does not return. If it did, then every soul that has left this life would know of his former lives.
Much of the difference of understanding is the difference of words. If someone says that the soul is the world of impressions which the consciousness holds before it, and the spirit is the consciousness, then he may say that the soul returns.
When the child of unpoetical parents sings, making up words of its own, this shows that it has received the impression of some poetical soul. The soul that comes to the surface is more responsive than creative; it is not creative, because it has nothing to give. The soul on its return is creative; it imparts its experiences' there. For example, an unused photographic plate takes the impression of the object before it, but the used plate reflects its impression on to the paper. Suppose, for instance, the soul of Vishnu meets a soul on its way to manifestation, this powerful soul may impress the other with its attributes. Then that soul may say, 'I am Krishna, the reincarnation of Vishnu.' The soul is impressed with whatever comes before it. Sometimes children of quite ordinary parents may be so impressed by a great person in whose presence they are that they themselves become great. And as man's personality is nothing but an agglomeration of his thoughts and impressions, the inheritor of these may be called the reincarnation of the past one, although his soul is his own.
Sometimes a child appears to see and understand very much of what is going on around him from his infancy up. Sometimes a young man sees and understands more than an old person. Such people are supposed by the average person to be old souls, and the reincarnationists take it as a proof of the doctrine of reincarnation. But in reality knowing and understanding do not depend upon learning; knowledge is the soul's quality. The knowledge of the spirit has been man's in all ages. An old person does not need to read many books in order to learn that he was once a little child; he knows it, it is his past experience. So the soul knows its own experience; it needs only a little awakening to make it conscious of itself.
When the Shah of Persia wished to have the history of Persia written by some literary person, no one could be found to do it until the mystic poet Firdausi said that he would write it. And he wrote, from his inner knowledge, the Shah-nameh, the history of the Shahs of Persia. If he had this knowledge from the recollection of his own previous lives he must have reincarnated interruptedly in Persia and in Persia only, endowed each time with the same degree of intelligence, so as to have acquired and retained all this knowledge.
There is nothing which the soul cannot know, for the whole objective existence is made by the soul for its own use; and therefore it is not astonishing if man possesses great qualities that he has not inherited, and if he has knowledge of all things through revelation, not by learning. It is astonishing only when he lacks this, and that is owing to the globes upon globes of the objective world covering the light of the soul.
I first believed without any hesitation in the existence of the soul, and then I wondered about the secret of its nature. I persevered and strove in search of the soul, and found at last that I myself was the cover over my soul. I realized that that in me which believed and that in me which wondered, that which persevered in me, and that which found, and that which was found at last, was no other than my soul. I thanked the darkness that brought me to the light, and I valued the veil which prepared for me the vision in which I saw myself reflected, the vision produced in the mirror of my soul. Since then I have seen all souls as my soul, and realized my soul as the soul of all; and what bewilderment it was when I realized that I alone was, if there were anyone; that I am whatever and whoever exists; and that I shall be whoever there will be in the future. And there was no end to my happiness and joy.
Verily, I am the seed and I am the root and I am the fruit of this tree of life.